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The essential skills leaders, employees need for an AI-enhanced future
November 8, 2017

Technology advances are changing our lives in ways that are hard to imagine

It sounds exciting. It seems innocuous. But make no mistake about it, technology advances are changing our lives in ways that are hard to imagine. The ability is already here to spray solar panels onto the side of a building or use 3-D printing to manufacture weapons and ammunition on a battlefield. Farmers use their smart phones to run apps that model agricultural data like temperature records, soil quality and expected rain to produce what the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported in 2013 to be the largest crop yields in American history.

Machine learning is accelerating so fast that it raises a compelling question for leaders and employees – will you still be relevant in the age of artificial intelligence (AI)?

In this world of (AI), everyone from soldiers to CEOs will need to learn new skills and technologies to thrive. It’s not that leaders of tomorrow will spend their time fiddling with smart apps that program office lighting. That would be a simple habit change. Instead, as AI uses computer hardware and software to mimic how humans perceive, reason and judge, human leaders will need to find ways to cuddle up to this technology and treat it as an assistant rather than a threat.

The robots are coming!

So just what can AI do? Ask the Harley-Davidson dealership in New York City that increased its sales leads by 2,930 percent after switching to an AI system to sift through potential customers to identify likely buyers. Next time you call a company to lodge a complaint, you could be interacting with a chatbot, programmed to resolve problems in conversational English. Not even emotions are beyond AI’s reach; these days, you can purchase a system to monitor your employees’ e-mails, looking for signs of emotional distress signaling an employee may be ready to switch employers.

Although the technology is in its infancy, quantum computers are poised to tackle analytical data concepts we can scarcely wrap our minds around on a typical Monday morning. Google just announced a new quantum computer that the Wall Street Journal predicts has the potential to disrupt everything from science and medicine to national security.

It’s a new industrial revolution, for sure, with repetitive, predictable jobs on the chopping block. Number crunchers and analysts, too, could find their skills in less demand. Still, 77 percent of companies surveyed in 2017 expect to keep their human capital at today’s levels, even if that requires retraining.

And pundits also predicted last decade that digital cameras would exist side by side with film development, too. Kodak sold its film division to emerge from bankruptcy in 2012.

Staying Relevant

The good news: you still have time to develop your niche to stay relevant in this rapidly approaching world. According to a study by Deloitte, 41 percent of companies have deployed AI technologies, but only 17 percent report that they were fully ready to manage them.

“The new smart will be determined not by what or how you know but by the quality of your thinking, listening, relating, collaborating and learning. Quantity is replaced by quality,” says Ed Hess, a professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business. In other words, AI will place a greater premium on human judgment.

Marialane Schultz, CEO of IOCI, insists the time to tackle this change is now.

“There is a growing strategic imperative for senior leaders to begin assessing how work will change, what capabilities will be needed and how organizations must prepare to lead an AI-augmented workforce. AI advances are accelerating, and those who prepare are likely to remain relevant and perhaps even enjoy a competitive advantage over those who don’t.” – Marialane Schultz, founder and CEO of Innovative Outcomes Consulting Inc.

For instance, Schultz urges leaders to begin focusing on these specifics:

  • Develop stronger strategic abilities to learn how to blend humans, people augmented by intelligent automation and autonomous systems.
  • Adapt to a flexible team-oriented approach to drive business outcomes though networks of teams versus traditional reliance on hierarchal approaches.
  • Enhance your negotiation, resilience and systems-thinking skills.
  • Polish your creative skills to adapt to leading in the era of AI and to be more competitive by applying judgement and creativity derived from AI insights.
  • Encourage your employees’ data analytics skills so they can effectively and successfully use AI.
  • Rely more than ever on your emotional intelligence skills and ability to show empathy, which must be strongly expressed when leading across networked teams.

For a deeper look at AI’s coming impact and more concrete ways for leaders to prepare, check out IOCI’s white paper, “Leading in the Era of AI: What Organizational Leaders Must Know to Thrive.”

Marialane Schultz

Marialane Schultz is the founder of IOCI. She helps individuals and organizations perform at their best, do meaningful work and be impactful through customized coaching and consulting engagements.

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